Last month, Sen. Mark Udall and a handful of other privacy-focused politicians persuaded the IRS to promise to cease warrantless searches of Americans’ private correspondence.
Now Udall, a Colorado Democrat, is taking aim at the Justice Department, which has claimed the right to conduct warrantless searches of Americans’ e-mail, Facebook chats, and other private communications.
“I am extremely concerned that the Justice Department and FBI are justifying warrantless searches of Americans’ electronic communications based on a loophole in an outdated law that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled was unconstitutional,” Udall said in a statement sent to CNET Thursday.
Udall’s statement cites a CNET article yesterday that was the first to disclose the Justice Department and the FBI’s electronic search policies. The article was based on internal government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The senator’s statement urges Congress to move quickly to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act — enacted during an era of dialup modems and the black and white Macintosh Plus — that currently does not require search warrants for all e-mail messages. The 6th Circuit ruled in 2010, however, that the privacy protections enshrined in the Fourth Amendment require police to obtain search warrants signed by a judge first.
Take Action Now! Regardless of where you live, we should all help each other out. Here’s your chance. It will take you less than 30 seconds
Call Representative Todd Hunter, Chair of Calendars
(512) 463-0672 Austin office
Ask him to send HB 1608 to the House floor for a vote. All House bills must be on a floor calendar by Tuesday May 7th or they cannot get a vote.
HB 1608 will require government to get a warrant based on probable cause if it wants to access detailed personal location data held by your cell phone company. For most of us, our cell phones know more about our lives than we do — who we spoke to, everywhere we’ve been, how long we were there, where we went next. All this data is held by the cell phone company and provided to law enforcement for a fee under a legal framework conceived before the invention of smart phones or even the World Wide Web.
HB 1608 returns the legal framework governing location data to basic constitutional principles. If I keep a diary in my house, in which I record all my daily activities, that diary is protected from search and seizure without a warrant. The record of all my daily activities as recorded by my smart phone and retained by my cell company deserves the same protection.
HB 1608 enjoys the support of four joint authors and 103 coauthors out of 150 House members, including a majority of representatives from both parties and 11 of the 15 members of the Calendars Committee. But this bill won’t even get a vote if it isn’t reported out of Calendars in the next few days. Time is of the essence.
A phone call takes 30 seconds: Just tell Rep. Hunter’s staff that you want HB 1608 sent to the House floor for a vote immediately before time runs out!